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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Repotting

Orchid repotting starts early here--in February. The catasetums and their relatives (Mormodes, Cycnoches, Clowesia) are always first off the mark, producing new growth before any other group of tropical orchids. For these guys, there is a window of opportunity for repotting, an optimal time between the appearance of the new shoot and the maturing of the new pseudobulb, that lasts only about a month. After that it's too late. If we miss that window, we have to wait another year.

Because the Catasetinae repotting season coincides with Orchid Daze, sometimes it's a race to finish repotting them before the window slams shut. As you can see in the photo above, I'm running late on repotting: the basal part of the new new shoot on our Mormodes has already begun to thicken and the new roots are at a dangerously fragile stage in their development. They break so easily!

We have been growing our catasetums, cycnoches and mormodes in a bark based mix (which they prefer here) in net pots with large openings. To keep the bark from emptying out the bottom, we have been lining the net baskets with moss--with unhappy results. The moisture in the sphagnum produces a spectacular growth of mold on the bark. Eww. Time for a new approach!

First, I wash the root mass to gently remove some old potting medium and to expose the roots. It then becomes easy to see that many of the roots attached to the older pseudobulbs have died. This is typical. Catasetums have a strongly annual growth cycle and put a tremendous amount of energy every year into new root and shoot production. Many of the older roots shut down at the onset of dormancy. I cut those away with a clean razor blade.

This year I'm using using net pots with smaller holes. No moss is needed as a liner. That should eliminate the mold problem. The new net pots are manufactured for hydroponic growing.

Next, I center the new shoot in the pot, with the older growths against the side. I hold the plant in my left hand as I fill the pot with mix using my right hand. The potting medium is equal parts fir bark, charcoal and sponge rock. We make the mix ourselves from the individual components.I like to rinse the bark under running water beforehand to remove the dust and sediment sized particles.


The label and data card goes on last. Labels are always attached to the pot with telephone wire --plastic coated 22 gauge copper wire. We can't risk losing the data.

An afternoon's repotting. There will be more next week!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Paphiopedilum chamberlainianum

Paphiopedilum chamberlainianum is one of the prettiest slippers in our collection. And although our plant originated in a commercial laboratory, it is impossible for me to look at it without remembering that the history of this species in cultivation is bittersweet.  P. chamberlainianum was part of the great wave of 19th century orchid introductions motivated by profit, not science.

Paphiopedilum chamberlainianum is endemic to a fairly small area on the island of Sumatra. It was introduced into cultivation in Britain the late 1890's by the orchid nursery, F. Sander & Sons. The nursery, founded by Henry Frederick Conrad Sander in 1881, specialized in orchid species and was supplied by numerous collectors commissioned by Sander to collect plants in both New and Old World tropics. Sander & Sons was just one of several firms fueling the orchid craze with vast quantities of orchids.

One of Sander's collectors, Wilhelm Micholitz, collected extensively on expeditions to the Philippines (Phalaenopsis micholitzii), Moluccas, New Guinea (Coelogyne micholitzii), Burma and South America. Micholitz shipped Paphiopedilum chamberlainianum (as P. victoria-regina) to Sander & Sons from Sumatra. Like many slippers, P. chamberlainianum has an extremely narrow distribution, making it vulnerable to over collection and habitat loss.

Our Paphiopedilum chamberlainianum seems to always be in flower. Each inflorescence produces four to eight flowers, opening one at a time over a period of several months.

If you're having trouble distinguishing Paphiopedilum chamberlainianum from other closely related species, remember that P. chamberlainianum is characterized by stripes on the dorsal sepals, P. glaucophyllum by its glaucous (dusty blue-grey) leaves, and P. liemianum by leaves bearing hairs on the margins and purple spots on the undersides.

Our Paphiopedilum chamberlainianum is happiest when we can keep the greenhouse temperature in the intermediate range (58º night minimum; 82º day maximum), a task grown more challenging in recent years as the outdoor temperatures trend upward.

Friday, March 28, 2014

3 Dens & a Masdevallia

I wasn't kidding about the dendrobiums. We have lots in flower. The only down side to these wonderful orchids is that their flowers don't last long--about a week. So be sure to stop by soon, or you will have missed them. Dendrobium lindleyi enjoys growing on tree fern fiber slabs (above).

Dendrobium moschatum var. oculatum produces huge bundles of cheddar cheese colored flowers at the end of long upright canes. Notice the fringe on the lip. The variety oculatum has a maroon blotch at the base of the lip.

Dendrobium farmeri, another spring bulb wannabee, photographed with the Orchid Daze display in the background. All three of the above species are native to upland areas around the Himalayas and southeast Asia, and so require a cool dry rest in winter in order to initiate buds.

Here's the wild card: Masdevallia scabrilinguis, flowering in the Tropical High Elevation House. I couldn't resist including it. Super cute and super tiny--look carefully for miniature orchids growing epiphytically in the trees in the High Elevation House!

Dendrobium Season

March is Dendrobium season around here--the month when our Dendrobium species wake up and want attention, right now. The month when we become their servants. We practically need a full time staffer just to rotate all of the flowering dendrobiums through the display.

 Dendrobium densiflorum is one of my favorites. It is the orchid family's Narcissus. In the wild it grows in upland areas (1000 to 1800 meters) in the eastern Himalayas, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and southwest China, in areas with a distinct dry season. Our plants never fail to flower spectacularly after a dry, bright, cool (ours get 53º night min. between Thanksgiving and New Year's) winter.

Dendrobium  densiflorum was introduced into cultivation in England by Loddiges Nursery in 1830, and it remains a popular species, and fairly common in the trade. Highly recommended if you can provide it the cool dry rest in winter and a warm tropical summer.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Openings: Pleurothallis cyanea

There are some real stunners for you to see in the Fuqua Orchid Center right now. And they aren't even part of the Orchid Daze display. Like this plant, my own personal heartthrob, Pleurothallis cyanea. It is part of our permanent collection.

What is it about this plant? Maybe it's the subtle blue-grey (cyanea means blue) tint of the leaves. Or their elongated heart shape. Or the geometry of those arching veins. It achieves perfection, even when it's not in flower.

Oh yeah, the flowers. They seem to emerge, unexpectedly, near the top of the leaf. (Actually, they emerge where the stem meets the leaf, at the angle formed by the two rounded basal lobes.) The lower half (actually, two sepals, fused) of the 'clamshell' is concave, and rosy pink. They are elegant in their simplicity.

Pleurothallis cyanea is native to Colombia, where it grows as an epiphyte in wet tropical forests. Our plants are mounted on trees in the Tropical High Elevation House, placed where they receive lots of shade.

For some reason, just about all of our large-flowered Clamshell Orchids (Pleurothallis subg. Pleurothallis section macrophyllae-fasciculatae): Pleurothallis cyanea, P. marthae, P. gargantua, P. teaguei and P. titan are all flowering simultaneously. Now is a great time to see this terrific group.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Orchid Oasis

If you are looking for a weekend oasis for your family, there is no better place than the Garden this weekend. Spring is in full swing here, indoors and out. Orchid Daze: Lasting Impressions, our impressionist inspired orchid display, has become a favorite spring destination and photo sharing opportunity.

In the Orchid Display House, bold oranges, yellows and reds give the Gauguin inspired display the feeling of a lush tropical oasis.

These guys had a lot of fun roaming the Orchid Display House.

Spring is one of the best times of year to see orchids in our permanent collection in flower. Epidendrum stamfordianum has a terrific fragrance.

In the Orchid Atrium, a Monet landscape is re-imagined with Pansy Orchids, cymbidiums and Moth Orchids and cattleyas. The bright sunshine and cool sweetly scented air give this room a distinctly spring-like feel.




The girls in pastel dresses look like they belong in a Monet landscape. Their parents must have had some beautiful photos to share of this weekend at the Garden.

Orchid Daze:Lasting Impressions runs through mid April. Be sure to stop by!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Welcome Spring!

What a glorious weekend! Some of our winter weary visitors couldn't wait to burst through the doors to see Orchid Daze: Lasting Impressions.

The Orchid Atrium smells heavenly, thanks to all of the Pansy Orchids, cattleyas and Oncidium Twinkle.

Monet's Bridge is a huge hit with visitors of all ages.

There are plenty of places to stop for pictures, or just relax.

The reflection pond is a magnet for kids.


Is it a Tulip or a Tulip Orchid? It was terrific to see so many of you here this weekend! Orchid Daze: Lasting Impressions is running concurrently with Atlanta Blooms, our outdoor spring bulb extravaganza, now at its best. Don't miss them!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Orchid Daze: Lasting Impressions

Welcome to Orchid Daze 2014! While you were pounding the ice from your doorstep, we were putting the final touches on our orchid display. ABG's impressionism-inspired orchid display, Lasting Impressions, open this weekend!, is exactly what you need to put all that behind you.

In the Orchid Atrium, you will see a display inspired by Monet's paintings, with hundreds of Pansy Orchids, cattleyas and Moth Orchids floating in an oval of water below Monet's iconic bridge.


The color riot in the Orchid Display House is inspired Gauguin's luscious tropical palette.

Van Gogh's indigo and earth tones are featured in the Conservatory Lobby, with violets, Oncidium spires and towering Italian Cypresses. Come and welcome spring at ABG!

Orchid Daze 2014: Lasting Impressions is open this weekend at 9 am. See you there!

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